‘One for the road:’ The etiquette of stealing a road beer as you leave a party

Real life photo of my purse from New Years.
Real life photo of my purse from New Years.

Well, you’re at a house party.

You’re squished somewhere between a gas stove you keep igniting with your hip and a guy you knew in college who has an overly-ambitious beard now. You’ve been on your own for about twenty minutes since the lightweight friend you came with started fighting with some guy because, well, that’s what she does. “Trap Queen” is playing for the fourth time, and you’re not that mad about it but you feel like someone probably should have switched the playlist by now. As you try to subtly adjust your tights because they’re doing that terrible creep-down-your-legs thing again, you hit the critical mass point. Like a salmon urged upstream to his ancestral waters, you feel the call of home. Before you go, however, there is something very important you have to do: you must get a road beer.

In the simplest terms, the roadie is a beer you take from your host’s fridge to drink on the way home, but in reality it’s so much more than that. During the summer, it refreshes you as you scrape the layer of salt off your arms from sweating so much in that goddamn unair-conditioned third-floor walk-up. In the winter, it helps you pull your liquor jacket a little tighter around you like a warm hug. Yes, it’s technically a crime to drink in public, but what do you really have to lose? After all, the NYPD has said they will stop making arrests for low-level offenses in Manhattan, and in all five boroughs the fine for public consumption is only $25. Seriously.


hamster mission impossible
Let’s do this, fuckers. via GIPHY

The merits of the road beer are varied and numerous, but before can appreciate them we need to get down to the logistics of how to actually pull this off.

Step 1: Approach your target with confidence

The key to executing a successful roadie heist is secrecy. Think James Bond or Batman. Be swift, be the night, but take your time. As you rummage around, strike up a conversation with whoever is standing in the kitchen, maybe even offer to grab them one. Act like you belong in this other person’s fridge, and the world will assume you do. I find it helpful to sing the Mission: Impossible theme in my head, though this is not required.

Step 2: Have a method of concealment

This step is easier for women as we usually have to carry a bag because our pants all pockets so useless they’re like the gallbladders of clothing. Just slip your beer in your purses and be on your merry way. For dudes, I suggest you bring your backpack or wear pants with big pockets like cargo shorts (sidebar: please never ever ever wear cargo shorts). You can also use one of those black plastic bags they give you at bodegas, but this is tricky as you have to make it look like you’re unloading the bag into the fridge instead of filling it up so no one suspects anything. I would only recommend this method for those with extensive experience in close-up magic tricks.

Step 3: Make your escape

The perfect road beer caper is best finished off a quick escape. No goodbyes, no stopping to pee, just get to the door and get out as quickly as you can. Some might think it’s rude to not say goodbye to your host, but if you’re stealing beer from their fridge you probably don’t care anyway. If someone does catch you, the best thing you can do is make them your accomplice– let them in on your secret, offer to sneak them one, too. I’ve found most people are willing participants, especially if you invite them in on the scheme.

Note: please do not eat any of your host’s tableware. via GIPHY

It’s important to remember that even though you are technically stealing, there are some rules of etiquette you should follow:

1. Limit yourself to one beer, though in extreme circumstances two are acceptable.

2. It’s better to go cheap, and not just because someone is less likely to notice it’s missing. Don’t be a dick and take an expensive craft beer (though please do get some for yourself) because you’re probably drunk so it won’t matter anyway. Bud Light is great because at this point you need to start hydrating unless you want to be a hungover waste of space tomorrow, and Bud Light is 99.9999% water anyway. It’s a win-win.

3. NEVER OPEN YOUR ROAD BEER AT THE PARTY. In the stairwell is fine, on the front porch is fine, but you must be clear of the immediate area or else it’s not a true road beer. It’s just a beer you decided to walk outside with.


Allow me to explain.

I understand that this seems like a lot of work for something relatively simple —why not just drink the beer you have at home, or stay for one more if you want it so badly? For me, the answer is more spiritual than logical.

There are people who enjoy house parties, and then there are the rest of us who see spending three hours answering the question “What are you up to these days?” as worse than swimming in a river of subway garbage. The road beer is for us, a reward for socializing when it would be much easier to hide in bed and watch inspirational X-Factor auditions. We don’t like to go out but feel like we should because we have to do something to keep our friends from calling us asking if we’re still alive. So we show face once every few months whenever someone we know moves or decides they really like Halloween, and even though it’s always so so so sweaty (how do apartments get so sweaty??) we smile and accept our fate. I don’t know about you, but when I know I’m going to end my night with some espionage and a cold one for the walk home, it makes the whole experience a little less terrible.

So, if you’re like me and you need the promise of a stolen beer to get you through, then party on, soldier. Crack open that roadie. I hope it tastes like victory.

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